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Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum

upl_vesterheim-museumWith a main complex of 16 historic buildings in downtown Decorah, Iowa, a farmstead and country church about seven miles outside the city, and the Vesterheim Genealogical Center and Naeseth Library in Madison, Wisconsin, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum is the largest, most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group.

Working together, Vesterheim and SSNHA preserved the Painter-Bernatz Mill.  The Mill roof was re-shingled with cedar wood shingles.  Due to the unusually warm weather this season, the installation of  shingles was completed in November and December.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mill was built in 1851 by William Painter and continued operation until 1947.  The three-story limestone structure was restored and adapted for museum use in 1971.

With over 474 artifacts, the Mill house exhibits of early Norwegian-American industry including farming techniques of Norwegians and nineteenth century farming in Decorah.  Farming was the major means of livelihood for Norwegians in America, as it had been in their home country.

“Many visitors find the Mill the most interesting of our exhibits,” according to Steve Johnson, Vesterheim’s Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, “because they can connect it to their own early lives growing up on the farm.”

This spring, Vesterheim will hold a re-dedication reception to feature the completed project.  It is tentatively scheduled for May when Vesterheim’s Outdoor Division is reopened to the general public.
Also in March and April, Vesterheim will be hosting the traveling exhibition Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon.  For information contact Steve Johnson at (563) 382-9681.

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